Can the Tories play Santa Claus without spurring inflation?

BLAIR FRASER December 6 1958


Can the Tories play Santa Claus without spurring inflation?

BLAIR FRASER December 6 1958


Can the Tories play Santa Claus without spurring inflation?


Is unemployment a genuine policy issue between the major parties? Or is it a political sham-battlefield where the Ins do and the Outs say the same things as always, even though they’ve exchanged party labels?

In public both sides make it look as if “Yes” were the answer to the second question, not the first. Today’s Conservatives do sound remarkably like yesterday’s Liberals, and vice versa. In private, though, they are different. An important issue is developing between them, but it's a hard one for either side to thrash out in public debate—partly because both mix it up with other things on which there’s no real disagreement.


For instance, there’s not much argument about the winter employment program which the government has been announcing at intervals during the autumn. Job-making outlay this winter will be the highest ever, for peacetime. Conservatives add it up to $740 million —employing 150,000 men. For campaign purposes, they concocted an even higher total last year, but now they have a slightly different list; it shows an increase for the coming winter, of $8 million and 16.000 men, over last year’s record-breaking figures.

That’s not all either. There’s an offer to municipalities of half the payroll cost (which on an ordinary job would be about a quarter of the total cost) of projects like sewer-digging, street-repairing, etc., if they're done in winter instead of summer. Ottawa has put no ceiling on this offer, and no one has yet guessed how much it will cost or how many it will employ. There is also an extension of new loans to home builders, if they’re taken out before the end of the year. And to hear some Conservatives talk for publication you might think all this was the personal, patented invention of the Diefenbaker government. To hear some Liberals, on the other hand, you'd think it a puny, inadequate gesture, far too little and too late.

Both admit privately that the winter employment program has been developing steadily, under both parties, for the past five years. In the main it has been planned and executed by the same civil servants. It began with the first thorough study of the nature of seasonal unemployment, continued with systematic efforts (which are now routine practice) in all government departments to save every possible job for the slack winter months. Last July a two-day conference brought together federal, provincial and municipal governments with spokesmen from industry and labor. All the winter employment measures so far announced, and several others as well, were recommended by that conference. Liberals don’t quarrel w'ith any of them except to say they should have been done sooner.

But in the eyes of the officials who

organized it the best thing about the July conference was that “for once, we didn’t get winter employment mixed up with recession.” They want people to recognize the winter slump as a quite separate problem that Canada has to face in good times and bad. More can be done about it than our grandfathers knew; many kinds of work that used to be seasonal can be kept going through the cold weather with new techniques. Sometimes this costs more, but not as much more as it costs to feed an unemployed population; there are various ways of spreading this extra cost, so that it doesn't all fall upon the employer.

Neither party is against these things. What divides them is how to deal with recessions—economic rather than seasonal slumps. In mid-recession last winter, the parties were accusing each other of doing too little. The difficult question, still muted by the inhibitions of politics, is the opposite one: how can a government tell when it’s doing too much? And, if it does come to that opinion, how can it turn around and move in the other direction?

This is the true nub of the argument in the last election campaign—Liberal tax cuts versus Conservative public works. The Grits argued quite sincerely that tax cuts would be felt more quickly. What they did not say so loudly, but what they think is even more important, is that tax cuts are more easily reversed.

Canada’s budgetary deficit for this year will probably run to a billion dollars or more (almost certainly, if you include the red ink in the old-age pension accounts). That’s about three percent of the gross national product—a fairly stiff shot of inflation. However, the deficit would have been just as large for this year if the Grits had been elected instead of the Tories. They admit it. Their tax cuts would have taken just as much away from the revenue side as the Conservative public works are adding to the expenditure side.

But a public-works program, once launched, is not very flexible. Works have to be planned, tenders called, contracts let. By the time they reach their employment peak, recession might be over and inflation rampant. The government would still be a competitor in the labor market, and it would still (unless it was willing to boost taxes far above their present level) be running up a huge deficit each year.

Grits argue that their tax cuts, by contrast, could be rescinded when the recession is over. The budget could be brought back into balance, and taxpayers would be no worse off than they arc now; the government would be helping to diminish instead of increase the pressures of inflation.

This may be good economics. The trouble is, it is very bad politics, as the Liberals found out last March. Their tax-cut plan struck most voters as a mere giveaway program, an attempt to outpromise the promising Tories. If they made any mention of the other side of the coin, the return to higher taxes when recession is over, it was hardly audible, and would almost certainly have lost them even more votes if it had been heard more clearly. The idea that government goodies have to be paid for, one way or another, is so old-fashioned as to be politically obsolete.

In other words, the Conservative position was swept away in the Conservative victory. This is the Liberal complaint, and dilemma.

There’s a certain ironic justice in it —nemesis, maybe. I remember a conversation with a Liberal cabinet minister on the campaign train in May 1957. The Liberals naturally assumed they were invulnerable, and this one was holding forth as usual on the imbecility of the Tories.

"Why don’t they realize,” he said, “that their only hope is to go back to a true Conservative policy? They ought to be able to see that there is no position for them to the left of our party. Instead of trying to compete with us, promising more of this and more of that, they should be campaigning for economy and sound government, real conservatism.”

But didn't he think this would merely condemn the Conservatives to perpetual opposition?

The minister did not reply, but he

seemed to think this a quite tolerable idea. A month later, he was out of office. The Conservatives were trying on his Santa Claus suit, and letting out all its seams. It looks like a very good fit on them now. So far, the ex-minister has shown little inclination to adopt the role he was recommending to the Conservatives only eighteen months ago.

Let’s not be too sardonic. The hesitation is more than mere political timidity. All the leading Liberals in parliament, and many of the leading Conservatives, were young men during the great depression. Whatever party they may have belonged to in those days, if any, they were radicals at heart. To them the very word unemployment has an emotional impact, a kind of horror about it. The idea that any other threat should take priority over unemployment, however rationally convincing it might be, leaves them cold. This is probably true of most Canadians between the ages of forty and sixty, no matter what their present material circumstances.

Nevertheless, the question is still unanswered: how long can we go on running billion-dollar deficits? What will happen if we try to find out by experiment?

Quite a few people on both sides of the house are beginning to think that this danger, runaway inflation, is the gravest of all economic threats just now. But nobody has figured out a short, simple, palatable way of saying this to the voter, it


WITH THE CHEMISE and/or sack now thoroughly buried and Paris temporarily silent about future “looks" for women, it remained for men to keep the sparks flying in fashion: the bowler, derby or Christie is back in triumph, right on the heels of a flurry of summer excitement over that other relic of granddad's day — the straw boater.

“Hats are hot,” says Norman McMillan, president of the Hat Foundation of Canada.

The evidence: When the country-wide Calhoun Smile Shops recently brought in a batch of bowlers from England they sold most of them in a day. Now Canadian manufacturers are getting ready to turn out a softer-felt version of the derby. Ontario’s lieutenant-governor. J. Keil 1er MacKay, supported a modest comeback by the boater by wearing one during Princess Margaret’s visit.

If this is a comeback for hats, however, it still faces obstacles. Large numbers of potential hat wearers have grown up in an era of crew cuts. Changing to hats, where should the barehead set look for guidance? Who are the besthatted Canadians? Here are the top ten, selected especially for Maclean's by the Hat Foundation: Gordon Sinclair, writer and commentator: his specialties are snap brims (he owns 20) and balmorals (he has 10).

best-hatted men

E. P. Taylor, industrialist: for business, he wears a grey snap brim, for sports a cap. and he has a wide selection of toppers for formal wear.

P r e m i e r Maurice Duplessis: firm advocate of the homburg.

Maurice Richard:

a profusion of fedoras.

Sam Shopsowitz, Toronto restaurateur: hats for every suit and he owns dozens.

Conn Smythe: a wide selection of snap brims, straws, caps and toppers.

Senator Sarto Fournier, Montreal mayor: another of the homburg set.

William Walker, Fredericton mayor: “best-hatted man in the Maritimes.”

Don Mackay, mayor of Calgary: his trademark is a white Stetson, but he also owns derbies, straws, berets and a sou'wester.

Hon. .1. P. Sauvé, Quebec social welfare minister: “always correctly hatted.”

Backstage WITH OUR WORDY LEADERS / How they measure up

WHAT'S THE MEASURE of Canada’s prime ministers? Approximately 1,500 feet. That's the amount of shelf space their documents and correspondence occupy in the Public Archives in Ottawa. The correspondence runs to 2Vz million pages—a history of the country since Confederation. The documents include trivia such as dinner menus and treaties that have helped shape Canada.

If the space given to their collected contributions to posterity proves anything beyond the worth of the various men, it is probably that more modern prime ministers have been wordier and have been more assiduous packrats than the ones of the previous century.

Here’s how they measure on.the shelves and what, in some cases, they fill the space with:

Sir John A. Macdonald: 123 feet, including seven inches devoted to his rather complex personal finances, a marriage settlement and household accounts.

Alexander Mackenzie: 1 foot, 7 inches.

Sir John Abbott: 1 foot.

Sir John Thompson: 51 feet, including domestic accounts and love letters to his wife. Sir Mackenzie Bowell: 21 feet.

Sir Charles Tupper: 5 feet, 6 inches. Sir Wilfrid Laurier: 195 feet, including 42 solid feet of correspondence with people asking for political patronage and four inches of poetry by Lady Laurier.

Sir Robert Borden: 141 feet.

Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen: 67 feet, 4 inches. Rt. Hon. R. B. Bennett: There’s a gap here. His papers are at the University of New Brunswick.

Rt. Hon. Mackenzie King: 800 feet (the champion). His private papers are in the Archives, although diaries and some documents are at Laurier House where his official biography is being written. There are more than a million pages of King papers. Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent: His papers are in the Archives building but have not yet been put on the shelves, thus can't be measured. They won't be available to the public until 25 years after his death.

Rt. Hon. John Diefenbaker: has indicated

he'll transfer his papers to the Archives on his retirement.—



Buffalo Bill? Wyatt Earp? Nah! Have a look at Riel’s top gun

THE RASH of triggermcn on today’s TV westerns leaves one occasional viewer quite cold. He is Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. The PM regards the Bat Mastersons and Wyatt Earps of the old west as pretty pallid figures compared with his own favorite western hero, Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was Louis Riel's top gun. a deadly and fearsome individual to whom the PM has devoted a good deal of respectful study.

“He is the most romantic figure of the west in the last century," Diefenbaker told Maclean's, chatting about Dumont. “He is unequaled in his exploits of daring, in his generalship and as a buffalo hunter. Buffalo Bill was a novice compared with Gabriel Dumont.”

How come the PM fastened on Dumont as his favorite character? As a boy in the Batoehe area of north Saskatchewan in 1903, Diefenbaker met Dumont several times. It was just three years before the rebel died. He was old. "But he always gave me a feeling of fear and awe because 1 knew' he had killed so many men.” On top of that Dumont had a livid scar running through his hair the crease from a government bullet in the fight at Duck Lake.

To backtrack on the career of his hero, the PM has had to ferret through old letters and talk to Indians and métis, for no formal biography has been written on Dumont. The best account of his career is probably in a document called La Vérité sur la Question Métisse; this contains the field notes of Dumont which he dictated to a recorder, for he could not read or write.

He was born at Red River, the son of halfbreed parents, and he was a born leader. At 13, he was fighting Indians. When he was 20 a group of his former enemies made him their chief. He was perhaps directly responsible for the second Riel Rebellion, for he brought Riel back from exile in Montana to Batoehe, where Dumont had set himself up as the leader of 200 métis. Dumont was behind the Frog Lake massacre; it was he w'ho stirred the Indian tribes. Bloodthirsty? His own account of the Duck Lake fight says yes. “Since 1 w'as eager to knock off some redcoats 1 never thought to keep under cover. A shot came and gashed the top of my head.” Facing defeat at Batoehe, he told government officers trying to negotiate a surrender, “1 still have 90 cartridges for you." He tied 600 miles from Batoehe to Montana, but was permitted to return later.

As a boy, Diefenbaker also followed the exploits of Dumont along old búllalo trails, still discernible on the prairie 20 years after the buffalo became extinct. At the bottom of one cliff were hillocks of buffalo bones where Dumont and his métis had chased the animals to their death.

“He represented the last Indian hopes for the preservation of the plains for the Indians," says the PM, "but he lived in a false concept and his false dreams could not come TRUE.”-KLAUS NEUMANN

B ackgroumd


Sign of recovery: a big autumn increase in honeymoon couples registering at Niagara Falls’ Chamber of Commerce (they get a certificate there). To November 6,500 couples booked in—a mere trickle in spring and summer but a full flood in September and October. Cupid's best guide to the Falls this year: the 20 new' floodlights shining on the waters since June, say businessmen, who, in view of general business conditions, had expected a tourist slump. Instead, just as many visitors showed up as in boom years, many to see the $154,000 battery of lights in action at night.


One or more of Canada’s 39 universities offers a complete course in French, English, Greek, Arabic, Japanese. Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Gaelic, Czech. Icelandic and Chinese —but none has had a separate course in Canadian literature. The lack is now being filled at two Ottawa colleges. The University of Ottawa this term formed a Research Centre into French-Canadian literature; Carleton University has established an Institute of Canadian Studies. Both are offering Masters and Doctors degrees in Canadian literature and expect the courses will attract foreign students, as well as Canadian teachers and scholars.


“Don’t buy a car—rent or lease one!” isn't a new idea, but it has created one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country. There are now 350 car-rental and 100 leasing agencies in Canada against a mere handful 10 years ago. They supply 15% of all cars used for business purposes; by 1970 they expect to be providing at least half such cars. Their big sales pitch: no worry about capital cost or repairs. You pay $105 a month for a middle-priced car, plus gas. They look after the car. Profit to leasing agency: about $400.


Among the names passed by when Richard Wigglesworth was appointed American ambassador to Canada: Sherman Adams, Eisenhow'er’s former top aide and victim in recent coat-and-rug scandals. For years, Adams had made no secret of his desire to be U. S. ambassador in Canada and often talked of his “coming appointment” to Arnold Heeney, our former ambassador to U. S.